Our New Reality

We are all getting used to the virtual nature of our work in organisations. We are slowly seeing the positive and negative impact that this can bring to individuals, teams, and organisations. But how do we stay connected in this disconnected reality?

We may find that the future is, at best, a blended work practice between virtual and face-to-face, with employees attending the offices only for special meetings and events, working at home for the majority of the time.

While convenient and ‘safer’, this brings a new challenge to organisations to keep their employees connected. If surveys show that before the pandemic 67% of employees were either disengaged or actively disengaged, then the likelihood is that figure may have increased.

According to the Harvard Business Review, employees today rank culture workplace environment above pay and fancy titlesOrganisations will need to rethink their approach to company culture. 

What is culture?

Simply expressed, it is the way we do things around here. It is not what we put on the wall in terms of our values. It is how we behave and do things daily.

If you do not have a strategy around your people and culture, then it will develop unconsciously. You need to understand what type of organisation you want to be and to ensure that you are building that every day in every way.

What does that mean?

Start with some simple things:

  1. You have a strategy underpinned by a shared corporate vision and values. Who developed them? If your people are not involved in developing the values, they will not buy into them. It needs to be a consultation process. Once the values have been selected, there need to be clear definitions for each one. In this way, you are creating a language that can be shared by all. The behaviours that support each value will be clearly identified.
  2. Decide how you will recognise and reward the individuals and teams that demonstrate these values. The principle is that what you reward, you get more of. Encouraging the right behaviours makes sense. We suggest that you have a good look at your overall reward system. If you say that you value teamwork, but all the rewards and recognition go to individuals, you are not congruent. We refer to it as choosing your heroes – who are the celebrated heroes currently in the organisation? The mavericks, the loners, or the team players?
  3. How are your organisational values brought into conversations? Are they reinforced in all areas of the business? Is there any way for people to challenge inappropriate behaviour?
  4. Setting clear expectations for all roles in the organisation with consistent standards is needed. Do leaders and managers hold themselves to the same values and behaviours? Does everyone know what is expected of them? The importance of creating alignment cannot be overlooked. Individuals need to know where they fit into the big picture. They need to have a sense of the vision living in the organisation, being spoken about often and used to drive accountability and performance. This conserves energy and keeps the focus on the long-term objectives whilst delivering on the business’s immediate requirements.
  5. With the amount of virtual work needed currently, do you have a plan to use each meeting to provide the necessary connection that people need to start to engage, re-engage or stay engaged?
  6. Have you built a learning culture in your teams? To encourage openness where people feel that they can trust the organisation, therefore there needs to be a positive approach to solving problems and challenges. Mistakes need to be acknowledged as part of a learning process rather than being covered up for fear of reprisals. To do this, there needs to be a level of trust in the teams and organisations. Trust must be offered and earned, so leadership is critical here. The demonstration of trust and transparency. Trusting the online workers are doing what they need to do, not micromanaging them and checking up on them. This is a sign of the manager/leader’s insecurity, and they need to develop the skills of engagement and collaboration that invite honesty and openness in response.

Involving People

There are many other small things that an organisation can put in place to build connections with its people. They need not be expensive. They just need to be clearly thought through in consultation with the people about what matters to them and then consistently applied. Many good intentions and plans fall down because they do not have ownership at a high enough level. Someone senior in the organisation needs to really take on the Employee Experience and drive it as part of the business’s strategic focus.

We see the individual as the unit of change in organisations. You need to engage them, involve them and keep them close. The organisation is one of the major communities that your people belong to, and they spend a lot of time connected to their work, with a major part to play in the success or failure of your business.

This article was originally published in CIOLook Magazine, March 2021

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